COLUMBIA — Bobbette Tucker almost couldn’t recognize her son Sunday.
Standing in formation with his Air Force division, dressed all in blue, Cody Tucker waited to march in Columbia’s Veterans Day Parade.
Sunday was his first Veterans Day as a service member.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen him in uniform,” Bobbette Tucker said.
Bobbette Tucker joined the hundreds who turned out Sunday afternoon to watch the ceremony in front of the Boone County Courthouse.
Veteran recognition began Saturday with a 24-hour vigil honoring Boone County veterans.
The vigil started at 11:11 a.m. Saturday and ended Sunday at the same time. Veterans Day is celebrated annually at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 because World War I ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
Members of the MU ROTC took shifts over the 24-hour period to stand guard over memorials.
“It’s very similar to the tomb of the unknown soldier,” Cadet Wing Commander Derick Gee said. “It’s our way of honoring it; it’s the best way we know how.”
At the top of every hour during the vigil, the two guarding cadets were changed out and new cadets took their places. A cadet or volunteer conducted “Operation Remember” on every hour by reading a portion of the list of nearly 500 names of Boone County residents serving in the armed forces.
“This is the one event that really pays tribute to the Boone County veterans,” Capt. Tammy Rounsavall said.
Rounsavall said the ROTC program started the vigil 22 years ago to honor veterans of all generations.
Josh Lashley, a two-year veteran of the Marine Corps, said, “It’s important to recognize the individuals who are sacrificing and who have sacrificed their lives to the military.”
This year’s speaker was Brig. Gen. David F. Gross, a University of Kansas alumnus who opened with remarks about the two schools’ football rivalry.
Gross then addressed the cadets, saying their experience will be at least as great, or more dangerous, than most who served before them.
“I want you to understand that what you’re going into is a full-combat sport,” Gross said.
Gross gave the cadets three things to remember: the motto of the 1st Infantry Division, which says no mission too difficult, no sacrifice too great and duty first.
“Duty to ourselves, duty to our families, duty to our country and duty to our fellow servicemen,” Gross said. “The thing I’m most proud of is being an American veteran.”
Al Zoellner, an Army veteran who served from 1970 to 1971, visited Columbia for the ceremony and said that veterans are being treated better, despite some public criticism of the war in Iraq. “People aren’t as harsh about it now as they used to be — especially to young men and women who are serving,” Zoellner said.
Cody Tucker wants to follow in his cousin’s footsteps and be a pilot in the Air Force. During the ceremony, he was looking around and wondering what he would think about the ceremony when he’s an 80-year-old veteran.
“For the first year, you’re excited about everything,” Cody Tucker said.